“Justices to Hear Civil Rights Challenge in Ballot Prosecution”

USLW: The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up the case of a former Democratic county commissioner from New York State who was acquitted of forging absentee ballots during a 2009 primary election. Edward G. McDonough says the special prosecutor falsified evidence during the pre-trial investigation, grand jury proceedings, and at trial in an attempt to convict him of dozens of state law felony crimes related to the forged absentee ballots. But…

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George T. Conway III , Trevor Potter and Neal Katyal: “Trump’s claim that he didn’t violate campaign finance law is weak — and dangerous”

WaPo column: But the case is actually harmful for Trump — especially what the judge ruled. Edwards repeatedly argued that the payments were not campaign contributions because they were not made exclusively to further his campaign. The judge rejected this argument as a matter of law, ruling that a payment to a candidate’s extramarital sexual partner is a campaign contribution if “one of” the reasons the payment is made is to influence the…

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John Edwards, Donald Trump, and the Criminalization of Politics

In thinking about the potential criminal liability of Donald Trump for campaign finance violations, I time and again return to the prosecution of John Edwards for similar criminal behavior involving whether hush money payments to a mistress need to have been reported as campaign expenditures for the FEC. In a recent National Constitution Center podcast (with Jeffrey Rosen and Brad Smith), Brad made the point that some who support prosecuting…

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“Prosecutors Effectively Accuse Trump of Defrauding Voters. What Does It Mean?”

NYT: In the memo in the case of Mr. Cohen, prosecutors from the Southern District of New York depicted Mr. Trump, identified only as “Individual-1,” as an accomplice in the hush payments. While Mr. Trump was not charged, the reference echoed Watergate, when President Richard M. Nixon was named an unindicted co-conspirator by a grand jury investigating the cover-up of the break-in at the Democratic headquarters. “While many Americans who desired…

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Blockbuster Must-Read from BuzzFeed: “Inside The North Carolina Republican Vote Machine: Cash, Pills — And Ballots”

BuzzFeed: The allegations that Republicans tampered with absentee ballots in a close North Carolina election represent the most serious federal election tampering case in years, one that allegedly stole votes from elderly black voters in the state’s rural south. Now two women intimately involved with McCrae Dowless’s absentee ballot machine have revealed to BuzzFeed News its grim and chaotic workings, in which Dowless tracked votes on yellow…

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Recap of Symposium on Legislative Reform of the Electoral Process

In collaboration with Take Care, ELB has presented a series of posts offering thoughts on legislation to reform the U.S. electoral process. Here are the contributions: Reforming Elections Through Legislation Joshua Matz | 11/14/18 We are pleased to announce a mini-symposium in collaboration with the Election Law Blog The Validity of Stopping Voter Suppression Nick Stephanopoulos | 11/14/18  Now that Democrats have taken the House, it’s time to…

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Levitt: Performance Standards and Design Standards in New Election Legislation

In collaboration with Take Care, Election Law Blog is pleased to present a series of posts offering thoughts on legislation to reform the U.S. electoral process. Justin Levitt As the all-star lineup of other commentators in this magnificent mini-symposium have mentioned, the prospects for federal voting rights legislation to move in a divided Congress in this political moment are … slim.  Really, really, really slim.  There should be some room…

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Tokaji: A Grand Election Bargain That Everyone Should Support

In collaboration with Take Care, Election Law Blog is pleased to present a series of posts offering thoughts on legislation to reform the U.S. electoral process. Election reform is back on Congress’s agenda.  Having won control of the U.S. House, Democratic leaders have said that their first item of business will be a bill that removes obstacles to voting and otherwise improves the electoral process.   H.R. 1 would reportedly include…

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“Hoboken developer ‘Pupie’ Raia indicted in alleged cash-for-votes scheme”

NJ.com: Frank “Pupie” Raia, a real-estate developer and major figure in Hoboken politics for decades, was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday and accused of overseeing a cash-for-votes operation during the city’s 2013 municipal race. Prosecutors allege Raia, 67, directed an associate, Dio Braxton and others to promise voters that they would be paid $50 if they cast mail-in ballots in Hoboken’s 2013 race. Braxton,…

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Brad Smith Also Rejects Claim That Fundraising Against Collins Should She Vote for Kavanaugh is Bribery, But He Has Another Concern

Smith in WaPo: The first relevant statute is 18 U.S.C. 201, which prohibits any person from “corruptly” offering “anything of value to any public official . . . with intent to influence any official act.” The organizers and donors here clearly want to influence an official act — Collins’s vote on Kavanaugh. But are they doing so “corruptly”? Others have suggested the statute doesn’t apply because the funders are not offering anything to Collins…

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“Justice Dept. Demands Millions of North Carolina Voter Records, Confounding Elections Officials”

NYT: Federal prosecutors have issued sweeping subpoenas demanding that millions of North Carolina voter records be turned over to immigration authorities by Sept. 25. With just two months to go before the midterms, the subpoenas threatened to sow chaos in the state’s election machinery, while renewing the Trump administration’s repeatedly discredited claims of widespread voting by illegal immigrants. The unsealed grand jury subpoenas were sent…

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“Kansas court rules for grand jury investigation of Kobach”

…AP: A grand jury must be convened to investigate whether Republican gubernatorial candidate and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach intentionally failed to register voters in 2016, the Kansas Supreme Court has ruled. The court’s one-page opinion was released Friday and offered no explanation behind the ruling, which addressed Kobach’s appeal of a lower court’s order to summon the grand jury, the Lawrence Journal-World reported ….

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“Father of Alison Lundergan Grimes indicted in campaign finance conspiracy”

Kentucky.com: Longtime Kentucky Democratic operatives Jerry Lundergan and Dale Emmons were indicted by a federal grand jury in Lexington Friday for allegedly making illegal contributions to the 2014 U.S. Senate campaign of Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and then conspiring to cover them up. Emmons was indicted on six counts and Lundergan was indicted on 10 counts after investigators found they “willingly and knowingly” made…

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“Accusations of Voter Fraud Can Hurt Republicans, Too”

Frank Wilkinson for Bloomberg View: At any point in the past decade, Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer could’ve said something. When Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was engineering ways to suppress votes, and repeating false claims about voter fraud, Colyer could’ve piped up. Colyer could’ve pointed out that Kobach, his opponent in the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary, has never produced evidence to back his shameless claims. He…

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Kobach Hands Kansas Governor Recall Responsibilities to His Deputy, Who Has Donated to His Campaign, and Not to Election Professional

KC Star: Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker will take over Kobach’s duties and will serve on the State Board of Canvassers, which will certify the final election results. Rucker donated $1,000 to Kobach’s campaign last fall, according to campaign finance records…. Rucker was a top aide to former Kansas attorney general Phill Kline. Rucker found himself under scrutiny by an attorney disciplinary panel in 2010 that had looked into how…

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“Election Commission Documents Cast Doubt on Trump’s Claims of Voter Fraud”

ProPublica: Today, thousands of commission documents were released that show aspects of the body’s inner workings. As critics have suggested, the records — a mix of memos, internal emails and reports — make clear the commission’s work was driven by a small number of members who were convinced voter fraud was widespread, and that other members were often excluded from critical decisions about the commission’s aims and tactics…. On Nov. 18,…

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“Indicted Russian Company Uses Trump’s Supreme Court Pick as Get Out of Jail Free Card”

Every Voice: A Russian company indicted earlier this year as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into foreign interference in our elections is using a decision written by none other than Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to try to dismiss the case. As the Washington Post reported this morning, the company–Concord Management and Consulting—was one of the 16 people or entities indicted by a federal grand jury

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“Indicted Russian firm says it was backing free political speech, not disrupting 2016 election”

WaPo: A Russian company accused of bankrolling a massive online operation to disrupt the 2016 presidential election argued Monday that it had broken no federal laws, that it was merely supporting free political speech and that the fraud charge against it should be thrown out. Concord Management and Consulting was one of 16 Russian individuals or companies indicted by a federal grand jury in February at the behest of special counsel Robert S….

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“Kobach can be investigated by citizen grand jury, Kansas Court of Appeals rules”

KC Star: The Kansas Court of Appeals ruled Friday that a citizen grand jury can proceed with an investigation of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in Douglas County. Steven Davis, a Democratic candidate for the Kansas House, first filed a petition in 2016 to investigate Kobach on the allegation that he had intentionally failed to register voters who had tried to register through the state’s online registration system. The Douglas County…

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“New York Judge Declares a Mistrial in Ex-County Executive’s Bribery Case”

…WSJ: A Long Island judge on Thursday declared a mistrial in the case of Edward Mangano, the former Nassau County executive accused of public-corruption crimes, after the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict. Federal prosecutors said they would retry the case, which had offered a window into what they had called the county’s pay-to-play culture….

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“Ex-FBI honcho blasts Trump over Blagojevich”

Politico: A top former FBI official accused President Donald Trump of acting out of spite against federal law enforcement after the president suggested Thursday he might commute former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s 14-year prison term. Robert Grant, a longtime colleague and friend of special counsel Robert Mueller who headed the FBI’s Chicago office at the time of the Blagojevich investigation, told POLITICO in an interview that Trump is…

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“FEC Deadlocks on Probing Pro-Rubio Super PAC Money”

Bloomberg BNA: The Federal Election Commission deadlocked over whether to investigate a $500,000 contribution to a super political action committee that backed Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) presidential bid. Watchdog groups contend the 2016 donation was illegally funneled through a limited liability corporation. Conservative Solutions PAC reported receiving the money from IGX LLC. Complaints filed with the FEC, citing news reports, said the money…

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“Mexican national indicted for illegal voting in Harris County”

Houston Chronicle: A Mexican citizen accused of voting in three different elections in Texas has been indicted on two counts of election fraud linked to the November 2016 presidential election. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton vowed to prosecute the case, which comes amid increased attention on voter fraud nationally and in Texas, where two North Texas women were sentenced to several years in prison for illegal voting. Laura Janeth Garza, 38,…

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“Sheldon Silver Is Convicted in 2nd Corruption Trial”

NYT: Sheldon Silver, the former powerful Democratic speaker of the New York State Assembly, was found guilty of federal corruption charges on Friday, less than a year after his first conviction on the same charges was thrown out…. Mr. Silver’s retrial was widely watched as a test of the government’s ability to prosecute official corruption under the narrower definition. But from the outset, prosecutors this time seemed to hold an upper…

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“Donald Trump, John Edwards, and the Mistress Loophole; Maybe Rudy Giuliani knows what he’s doing after all.”

Stephen Weissman for the American Interest: One can imagine how Lowell’s argument would be grasped by counsel defending Cohen and Trump. So would other statements about the Edwards case by former FEC Commissioners. Before the trial, Thomas and another Democratic Commissioner retained by the defense were shown the government indictment charging that Edwards orchestrated the payments for electoral purposes. Nevertheless, they wrote, the payments…

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“Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez is ‘severely admonished’ by Ethics Committee, ordered to repay gifts”

WaPo: The Senate Ethics Committee said Thursday that Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who avoided conviction in a federal corruption trial last year, violated federal law and Senate rules in accepting unreported gifts from a friend and political ally whom Menendez used his office to assist. In a four-page “letter of admonition,” the six members of the panel ordered Menendez to pay back the gifts he received from Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye…

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“The Administration is Lying About the Census”

Important Joey Fishkin at Balkinization: The Commerce Department has announced that it is adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census, for the first time in seventy years.  There has been a lot of speculation about possible political motivations for this action.  It is difficult to know exactly what motivates government actors whose deliberations are not public.  But it is possible to know one thing: the government’s sole stated…

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“Philadelphia-Area Political Consultant Charged in Superseding Indictment With Obstructing Investigation of Federal Election Commission”

DOJ Release: A federal grand jury sitting in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania returned a superseding indictment today adding charges in a pending criminal case against a Philadelphia-area political consultant, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Louis D. Lappen for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The original indictmenz, returned on Oct. 24, 2017,…

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“FAN 179 (First Amendment News): Does existing First Amendment law endanger our national security and sovereignty? Prof. Hasen says yes”

I have this guest post over at Concurring Opinions. It begins: Last week, special counsel Robert Mueller secured a grand jury indictment of 13 Russian nationals for interfering with the 2016 U.S. presidential elections by, among other things, paying for political advertisements promoting Donald Trump for President and opposing Hillary Clinton. The claims were based in part on federal law barring most foreign nationals from spending money to…

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In Response to FEC Complaint by Common Cause, Trump’s Lawyer Michael Cohen Says He Paid $130,000 to Porn Star. Is There a Campaign Finance Violation?

Maggie Haberman for the NYT: Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, said on Tuesday that he had paid $130,000 out of his own pocket to a pornographic-film actress who had once claimed to have had an affair with Mr. Trump. In the most detailed explanation of the 2016 payment made to the actress, Stephanie Clifford, Mr. Cohen, who worked as a counsel to the Trump Organization for more than a decade, said he was not…

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DOJ Drops Menendez Indictment: What Does It Say About the Supreme Court’s Approach to Political Bribery? Not What You May Think

News today that DOJ, after a hung jury the last time, has dropped the remaining charges against Sen. Menendez (some were dropped by the judge after the first trial). Much of the reason for the problems with the charges against Menendez stem from the Supreme Court’s McDonnell case, which some read as giving a green light to all kinds of improper conduct that is now immune from prosecution. I confess that I did not see McDonnell as having…

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“Judge tosses 7 of 18 counts against Menendez and Melgen”

Politico: A federal judge has acquitted Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez and co-defendant Salomon Melgen on seven of the 18 counts they were tried on last year, just days after the Justice Department announced its intent to try the duo again after the jury deadlocked in the first trial. U.S. District Court Judge William Walls, who came under criticism from Menendez also announced he will not preside over the retrial. The case has not been…

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“It may ‘smell bad,’ but Long Beach mayor’s deal-making doesn’t break the law, experts say”

Long Beach Press Telegram: Legal scholars say even if Fox or another candidate dropped out of the race because of a deal struck, it would have been within the law. “You may think possibly this smells bad,” said Daniel Hays Lowenstein, a retired UCLA law professor who specialized in election law. “And it may smell bad, but even if it does, it doesn’t make it a violation of the statute. “ The statute in question is an 1893 state law that…

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Government Doesn’t Want Senator Menendez to Have Prayer Circles During Next Trial

NJ.com on the government’s weird motion: Prosecutors complained that the  jury in the first trial would often see the senator holding prayer circles with dressed clergy in the hallway and singing religious hymns in the hallway. They said Menendez would occasionally pray, gathering with clergy outside the courthouse, and sometimes was heard singing ‘Amazing Grace.’” In its filing, the government urged the court to impose…

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“Why Are Corruption Cases Crumbling? Some Blame the Supreme Court”

NYT: The trend began in 1999 when a Supreme Court case called  United States v.  Sun Diamond Growers of California chipped away at the government’s ability to prosecute officials for taking what are known as gratuities — or minor gifts given to them by businesses or allies. The opinion found that gratuities were illegal only if the government could connect the gifts to specific favors by officials, establishing a visible quid pro quo. In 2010,…

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“Corruption Case Against Senator Menendez Ends in Mistrial”

NYT: The federal corruption trial of Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey ended in a mistrial on Thursday after jurors said they were unable to reach a verdict, leaving Mr. Menendez, a Democrat, free to return to Congress but injecting uncertainty as he faces re-election next year and his party faces a difficult battle to retake the Senate. After interviewing jurors individually in his chambers, Judge William H. Walls emerged to tell the court…

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“Excused Menendez Juror: He’s Not Guilty”

AP: A juror who was excused from the bribery trial of Sen. Bob Menendez on Thursday gave a glimpse into deliberations, saying most jurors favor acquittal and that she would have cast a not-guilty vote for the New Jersey Democrat on all counts. Evelyn Arroyo-Maultsby spoke outside the courthouse after the jury was unable to reach a verdict after three full days and part of a fourth. The judge in August approved her leaving by this week because…

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McCutcheon Joint Fundraising Committees at Center of Controversial Donna Brazile Book Excerpt

Brazile in Politico: On the phone Gary told me the DNC had needed a $2 million loan, which the campaign had arranged. “No! That can’t be true!” I said. “The party cannot take out a loan without the unanimous agreement of all of the officers.” “Gary, how did they do this without me knowing?” I asked. “I don’t know how Debbie relates to the officers,” Gary said. He described the party as fully under the control of Hillary’s campaign, which seemed…

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“Cleveland grand jury rejects charges against 17 identified in Jon Husted’s illegal voting probe”

Cleveland.com: A grand jury voted not to charge 17 Cuyahoga County residents who were among dozens of non-U.S. citizens identified by Ohio Sec. of State Jon Husted’s office as illegally voting or registering to vote in past elections. The grand jury voted late Tuesday not to hand up false voter registration charges against 16 people, and not to charge a 17th person with illegal voting, according to court documents made public Wednesday….

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NYC Voter Purge: “City Board of Elections Admits It Broke the Law, Accepts Reform”

WNYC: The New York City Board of Elections is admitting it broke state and federal law when it improperly removed voters from the rolls ahead of the presidential primary last spring, including more than 117,000 voters in Brooklyn. That’s according to a draft consent decree announced Tuesday— nearly a year after the Board was sued in federal court for violating the National Voter Registration Act and state election law. The Brooklyn voter purge…

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“Jocelyn Benson Enters Michigan Secretary of State Race”

AP: Election law expert Jocelyn Benson announced Tuesday that she is running for Michigan secretary of state, saying no one should have to wait more than 30 minutes to renew a driver’s license, register a vehicle or vote. It is the second time the Democrat has sought the position. She was the party’s 2010 nominee but lost to Republican Ruth Johnson, who cannot run for a third term in 2018. Benson, of Detroit, said the half-hour…

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“Menendez Trial Judge Rejects Motion to Dismiss the Case”

NYT:  The federal corruption trial of Senator Robert Menendez resumed Monday after a judge rejected a motion by the defense to dismiss the case based on a major Supreme Court decision last year that overturned the corruption conviction against a former Virginia governor. “We are going to the jury,” Judge William H. Walls said, after reading a lengthy opinion in a courtroom here with the jurors out of the room. Judge Walls had suggested last…

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“At Menendez Trial, Legal Wrestling Over Definition of ‘Constituent’”

NYT: The prosecution, citing Black’s Law Dictionary, argued in a brief filed on Tuesday that “the straightforward answer is that Senator Menendez’s constituents are the New Jerseyans that he was elected to represent in the United States Senate.” But the defense, in a brief that was also filed Tuesday, claimed that the term was significantly amorphous and that wrestling with its meaning was “not a legal question for the court to answer” but…

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“Menendez Is Denied Reprieve From Corruption Trial to Cast Senate Votes”

NYT: When the 115th Congress returns to Washington on Sept. 5, Senator Robert Menendez will likely be absent: His federal corruption trial is set to begin here the following day. But when the Senate moves to vote on major bills during the fall – including on the debt ceiling, his plan to overhaul the National Flood Insurance Program, even an unpredictable major foreign policy decision – Senator Menendez will be caught between his desire to…

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“MT Supreme Court upholds landmark campaign-finance verdict against Wittich”

KTVH: The Montana Supreme Court Wednesday rejected an appeal from former state lawmaker Art Wittich in a landmark campaign-finance case, upholding a verdict that he accepted illegal campaign contributions in a 2010 state Senate race. A District Court jury in Helena last year found that Wittich violated campaign-finance laws by accepting illegal, unreported help from several conservative political groups. District Judge Ray Dayton of Anaconda…

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“Former Durham County elections worker indicted by grand jury”

News and Observer: Investigators from the N.C. State Board of Elections determined that Rawling, 59, ran or ordered others to run provisional ballots through tabulators more than once and made manual changes to the ballot count so the results of the provisional canvass would match the number of approved provisional ballots. This didn’t affect the outcome or have a party or candidate preference. It was about someone not wanting to get in…

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Top Recent Downloads in Election Law on SSRN

Here: Top Downloads For: LSN: Election Law & Voting Rights (Topic) Recent Top Papers (60 days) As of: 03 Jun 2017 – 02 Aug 2017 Rank Paper Downloads 1. The 2016 U.S. Voting Wars: From Bad to Worse Richard L. Hasen University of California, Irvine School of Law Date Posted: 14 Jul 2017 Last Revised: 24 Jul 2017 146 2. The Causes and Consequences of Gerrymandering Nicholas Stephanopoulos University of Chicago Law School Date Posted: 22…

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“A word with Kris Kobach; The voter-fraud commission relies on some really dodgy studies”

The Economist: Research reports collected for years by the Brennan Centre for Justice at the New York University School of Law show that voter fraud in general and by non-citizens in particular is extraordinarily rare. In his own state, Mr Kobach has prosecuted just nine cases of voter fraud of which only one was a foreigner, a Peruvian who was in the process of becoming an American citizen when he voted. (Mr Kobach says that he knows of…

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